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Policy making and health planning

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All countries of the WHO African Region have both national health policies and national health strategic plans in place. However, as indicated in the table, 10 countries had undertaken to revise their national health policies by the end of 2010, while 27 countries should do so by the end of 2015. Similarly, 16 countries need to revise their national health strategic plans by 2010, while 38 countries will do so by 2015. The intended cycle for health policies ranges from 5 to 10 years, while the strategic plans are normally revised in 5-year cycles.

Status of the development of policy and strategic plan documents from 2010 to 2015. Adapted from the HPS database, WHO Regional Office for Africa

The most common policy and strategic directions include:

  • defining an essential health package of services while attempting to ensure comprehensiveness, people centredness and continuity of services;
  • decentralization of the management of health services at district and local levels;
  • establishment and empowerment of health regulatory institutions;
  • contracting out of services with other health service providers, especially the private sector;
  • hospital autonomy through the establishment of hospital boards.

In terms of health financing, the major policies include determination of how revenues are collected and how funds are pooled, either through a sector-wide approach or a compact. The overarching goal is to improve health systems' performance using the principles of primary health care.